WE EXTEND AND INTEGRATE ANCILLARY CLASSES
Besides the core subjects taught within the regular classroom, MLA believes that ancillary classes (art, music, physical education, and foreign language) are equally important to produce well-rounded children. MLA prides itself on the uniqueness of its ancillary classes. In our art classes, students are taught more than simply producing a product. Students are exposed to art appreciation (study of art history) as well as the concepts that make art a valuable part of our society. Music is taught by exposing children to more than just the basics of song. They are taught music through movement, literature, poetry, rhythm, and nature. We believe that all children should be exposed to foreign language at an early age. We expose children to foreign language, both written and oral, and to foreign culture through games, songs, literature, cooking, and mini-projects. Finally, MLA has developed the only 5-day a week physical education program in Monongalia County. Students are given physical education and/or health instruction daily, helping us to produce children who are self-aware, physically fit, and health conscious. MLA is also unique in that its ancillary classes are not separate from the regular classroom. Ancillary teachers plan with the individual classroom teachers to fit their curriculum into the current theme. This provides incentive, real-world learning, continuity, and cross-learning experiences.
WE INVOLVE PARENTS
Morgantown Learning Academy was founded on the concept of parents, teachers, and students all working together to create a learning environment that fosters a spirit of community. Parents are also responsible for donating a set number of volunteer hours and participating in fundraising events. There are many and various ways in which we encourage parents to become involved in the school - participating in Read Aloud, becoming a classroom helper, chaperoning field trips, cutting out bulletin board materials at home, chairing a fundraiser, and planting flowers at a Parent Work Day - to name a few. We also believe that communicating with parents is very important. Parent-teacher conferences, email, and communication folders are just a few of the many ways that we inform parents about the school and their child. Involving parents is important to MLA for many reasons. It builds a sense of responsibility and community, helps parents become more aware of what goes on during the school day, and shows our students that our adults value education and all that it entails.
WE USE A POSITIVE APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE
Morgantown Learning Academy is a community of children and adults who spend many hours together each day. In order to ensure the safety of all, to create an atmosphere that builds respect for others, and to teach responsibility for one's own actions, the school uses a positive approach to discipline. Corporal and psychologically abusive statements are considered inappropriate and are not used. Children are reminded of rules in positive ways: the reasons for rules are explained and the children are given support to resolve conflicts and solve problems as independently as possible. When necessary, the children are redirected to more appropriate activities. Students are included in the process of establishing limits and expectations, as well as the consequences for inappropriate behavior. Teachers take care to set classroom limits and expectations that are appropriate for young children.
WE INTEGRATE ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES
At Morgantown Learning Academy, students are able to explore topics in depth and to develop an appreciation for their complexities. This approach allows for the merging of academic subjects, which reflects the natural way that children learn. It also provides a concrete and meaningful context for the practice of skills. For example, as children study their community, they may take trips to businesses and government offices, churches, neighborhoods, and so forth. Students interview representatives of these organizations and then discuss and document their findings. They may write letters to the newspaper and community leaders, draw graphs to summarize their findings, and conduct further research into topics of interest to them. Throughout this project, students are practicing skills related to reading, writing, math, social studies and oral expression. They are also gaining first-hand understanding of economic systems, religious systems and government, while they are developing an appreciation for the inter-relationships of all of these in their community. Such activities are carefully designed by teachers to meet curriculum objectives. Each new topic or theme stimulates involvement in a variety of academic subjects and skills, many of which are beyond the realm of a traditional preschool or elementary school curriculum.
WE CREATE A POSITIVE SELF-IMAGE
Morgantown Learning Academy strives toward an educational atmosphere that emphasizes the development of self-confidence, self-direction, positive self-esteem, enthusiasm for learning, and self-initiated exploration.
WE VALUE PEER INTERACTION AND COOPERATION
At Morgantown Learning Academy, students learn from each other and stimulate one another's interests. We teach children to work as members of a group. Cooperation, rather than competition, is fostered such that students are able to feel confident about their own contributions and abilities and are able to respect and learn from others.
WE PROVIDE APPROPRIATE CHOICES
We believe in a demographic educational environment. Teachers provide opportunities for children to develop skills and knowledge during the study of topics that are exciting and meaningful to children. The teachers provide topic or activity choices (often developed with student input) that are carefully designed to give practice in the particular learning task at hand. The availability of appropriate choices allows students to work in a context of interest to them. Having choices and participating in one's education also contributes to the development of decision-making skills, positive self-concept and motivation.
WE BELIEVE THAT CHILDREN LEARN BY DOING
Research in child development shows that children come to understand concepts through repeated active exploration of materials rather than solely through abstract descriptions. Our projects and activities are designed to encourage active, hands-on exploration and experimentation. A wide variety of manipulative materials are provided, and direct experience is emphasized so that a child is "doing" in addition to watching and listening. Children are encouraged to solve problems actively, to set their own goals, to evaluate their own progress, and to develop an ability to apply skills in real situations.
WE UNDERSTAND THAT SKILLS ARE IMPORTANT
We believe that mastery of the basic skills of reading, written and oral expression, mathematics, social studies, and science is essential for understanding and contributing to our world. The staff makes use of, but is not limited to, the Monongalia County School Curriculum in formulating objectives for the classroom. Skills are emphasized as a means to an end and are practiced in a context meaningful to the child.
WE TREAT CHILDREN AS INDIVIDUALS
Children are individuals, having their own unique physical, social, and intellectual characteristics. Children of the same age vary widely in learning style and development maturity. Morgantown Learning Academy fosters an environment of flexibility for academic progression. A child can learn at his or her own pace and is encouraged to extend learning from an activity as far as he or she is able. We provide the opportunity for children to go beyond expected school norms. MLA has adopted Individual Student Plans (ISP) which allows parents and teachers to make informed decisions together concerning the goals, objectives, and learning approach that best meets the needs of their child and student. These ISPs allow parents, teachers, and students to monitor expectations and progress.
WE START WITH THE CHILD
The ways in which the activities mentioned above are structured emerge from an understanding of, and respect for, the ways that children learn. Our program is centered on the various needs, interests and learning styles of the children. Please remember that MLA may not, in all cases, be able to meet the unique needs of a particular student. In these rare instances, MLA and the parents may choose to make other arrangements for the child. Our belief is that school organizations should foster an environment in which children are encouraged to make guided choices, to assist children in setting and evaluating their own goals, and to help children feel a sense of participation in their education. Children will learn, optimally, the necessary independent skills to continue their development into active, confident and eager learners, within the foundation of participatory education.